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Atikamekw Possession

On our parts of the body and kinship terms worksheets, you may notice that all the Atikamekw words begin with N. Ni- or Nit- is an Atikamekw prefix that means "my." Possessive prefixes can be used with almost any noun in Atikamekw. For most nouns, the possessive prefixes are ni-, ki-, and o- before a noun that begins with a consonant, and nit-, kit-, and ot- before a noun that begins with a vowel.

tciman (a boat) nitciman (my boat) kitciman (your boat) otciman (his or her boat)
actotin (a hat) nitactotin (my hat) kitactotin (your hat) otactotin (his or her hat)


However, certain nouns (including most body parts and kinship terms, and some words for personal objects like clothing) have inalienable possession in Algonquian languages like Atikamekw. That means you must use a possessive prefix with one of those words. It is very rare to say *mis, "an older sister," or *ckacai, "a fingernail." If you want to be abstract or if the possessor is unknown to you, you still need to use the third-person prefix, o-, together with the suffix -nan (you could say ockacainan, somebody's fingernail, for a fingernail you found lying on the floor, for example.)

For these words, the possessive pronouns are slightly different. The pronouns are still ni-, ki-, and o- before a root noun that begins with a consonant, but they are n-, k-, and w- before a root noun that begins with a vowel.

*mis (root noun, not used alone) nimis (my older sister) kimis (your older sister) omisa (his or her older sister) omisinan (one's older sister)
*ckacai (root noun, not used alone) nickacai (my fingernail) kickacai (your fingernail) ockacai (his or her fingernail) ockacainan (one's fingernail)
*okom (root noun, not used alone) nokom (my grandmother) kokom (your grandmother) okoma (his or her grandmother) okominan (one's grandmother)
*wiaw (root noun, not used alone) niwiaw (my body) kiwiaw (your body) owiaw (his or her body) owiawinan (one's body)

Two things to take note of:

1) When animate words use the third person form ("his or her"), there is not only a prefix (o-) but also, at times, a suffix (-a) at the end of the word. This is not true for inanimate words.

2) The indefinite format ("o-" + "-nan") is rarely used to refer to people in Atikamekw and Cree languages. It's much more common to use the word awik (someone) with the third-person form, such as "awik okoma" ("somebody or other's grandmother").


Click here for a pronunciation guide.
Click here for more Atikamekw language resources.
Learn more about the Atikamek Indian tribe.


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